By Leah Dearborn
It isn’t difficult to pick out the four band members of Tigerman WOAH! in a crowd. They’re the men with the long, matching beards who seem to have a handshake for everyone in the room.
The May 21 show at Bruno’s Bar and Burger in Lynn marked their third performance of the day. But it only began after the band greeted most of the crowd, giving hugs and catching up with many of the locals who regularly attend their concerts.
In the five years since they formed, Tigerman WOAH! has cultivated a distinctive blend of bluegrass and punk with solid roots in traditional Americana music. Their music leans heavily on banjo-ukulele, upright bass, and lyrics that sing the praises of social revolution.
On their Facebook page, they describe themselves as “drunken, cultish, group-work-oriented, always woah singin with TOO MUCH HEART.”
Guitarist Jon Feinstorm chatted amiably about the band’s history while he set up equipment on the floor at Bruno’s.
Feinstorm and lead singer Adam Kaz met back in high school in Georgia, where they bonded over whiskey. Eventually, they came to the Northeast.
“When me and Kaz moved here to Massachusetts, we were underemployed, kind of depressed, and living together in Boston,” he says. We didn’t have much going on, but we both liked old folk and blues. The stuff that resonated during the Depression, about what it’s like to be a working man. That music still resonates today. We started playing around together.” Feinstorm still lists mid-century folk musician Elizabeth Cotten as his “personal hero.”
They joined with bassist Kevin Landry and drummer Adam Lentine and played the Buchanan Café in Lynn, still one of their favorite places to perform.
“We played Boston Calling,” says Kaz. “That was our first big festival, so it was outside our comfort area.”
Their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Today, Tigerman WOAH! is on the rise, with recent sold-out shows at the Sinclair music venue in Cambridge and a gig at Stagecoach Music Festival in California, one of the largest outdoor country festivals in the world.
“It was awesome,” comments Kaz on the experience at Stagecoach. “Just really cool.”
In December of 2015, they picked up the Live Artist of the Year award at the 28th annual Boston Music Awards, where they were also nominated for Video of the Year for their song “Koopa.”
The video was conceptualized, shot, directed and edited by kids from RAW Artwork’s Real to Reel program in Lynn and includes a special dedication to Kaz’s cat, Koopa Troopa.
“Koopa Troopa was a bastard you couldn’t help but love,” said Feinstorm. “Unfortunately, he died while Kaz was out of town and it seemed like a fitting tribute.”
For the show at Bruno’s, singer Dina Elise opened for Tigerman WOAH! in a floral dress and heavy scarf, alternating between sultry jazz numbers and quick ukulele playing.
“Dina moved to Lynn from Philadelphia and we recruited her,” says Kaz from the sidelines as he watched her play. It was only the second time she’d performed with them live and the crowd clearly embraced it. “We just follow her, she writes all the songs.”
After Elise finished with a somber cover of Folk ballad “Black Is The Color,” Tigerman WOAH! filed onto the small stage and moved into a swinging rendition of “Tiger Man,” the Rufus Thomas blues tune the band derives their name from.
A small but energetic crowd gathered in the corner of the bar, dancing to songs that maintained the rowdy energy of an impromptu jam session. The resulting sound was something like Celtic rockers the Dropkick Murphys meets cult Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello.
Tigerman WOAH! is at work with The Bridge Sound and Stage in Cambridge on a new self-produced album. Kaz hopes that the album, which contains 13 songs, will be ready for a late summer release.
“We would love to record in Lynn, but we haven’t found a studio,” Kaz adds.
The new work will reflect a similar style to their previous albums, continuing to use music as a medium to explore larger social issues, according to Kaz.
Tapping into what Feinstorm said about appealing to the working man, one song from their new album concerns the 14-week strikes of 1969 at General Electric Co. A few fans at Bruno’s who were former General Electric employees sat up and took notice.
When asked whether the band planned to stick around the North Shore, Kaz replies, “We’e been down to Texas twice. We have a tour taking us to FloydFest in Virginia soon as well. We’ll play anywhere we can make it happen. We all work day jobs. We put all hours into this constantly writing and recording.” When asked if their matching beards were part of an intentional statement, Feinstorm shrugs.
“We all started doing it around the same time. We’re all just afraid to be the first to change, I guess.”
News on Tigerman WOAH! and a schedule of the band’s upcoming performances can be found online at: tigermanwoah.com.